Macdonald, Alexander John

He was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Weston Peile Macdonald, Indian Army, and Edith Inez Macdonald (daughter of Colonel Norton Powlett). He was fifth on the Roll for College in 1913, was a good scholar, and was the outstanding member of Mr. Steel’s Army Class. He was in Sixth Book and a College prefect. He played in College XV in 1916 and in VI in 1917.  He ran in Junior Steeplechase, coming in 7th in 1916.

Coming from a military background (his maternal grandfather had been a Colonel in the Royal Artillery) he chose the army as a career and passed into RMA Woolwich in July 1918. He was much liked, and with his energy and high standard of industry was sure to make a first-rate officer. He gained a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1919, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1921 and Major in 1938. On July 27th 1927 he married Stella Constance Christian Stuart (daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Donald Forbes Stuart).

He acted as commander of 59 Field Company, RE, in 4th Division of the BEF in 1940, and was reported missing during the retreat from Dunkirk in June 1940.

It was not until November 1941 that Macdonald was officially reported killed in a counter-attack using bayonets at Wameton, near Comines, on May 27th 1940, aged thirty-nine. The official history of the campaign describes what happened:

“Meanwhile a counter-attack was made in the southern sector of the 143 Brigade front, between the Warneton–Comines Canal and the road between those places. It was a spirited affair, planned by the commanding officer of 6th Black Watch, who, with his headquarters and one weak platoon, was in Warneton. Royal Engineers of 4th Division, acting as infantry, had taken up a defensive line screening Warneton on the east. The Black Watch platoon and these sappers constituted the infantry for the counter-attack: the latter were 7, 59 and 225 Field Companies. They were to support two squadronsof 13th/18th Hussars. The counter-attack went in at seven o’clock in the evening and succeeded in driving the enemy back and in consolidating the line of the Kortekeer river.  13th/18th Hussars in fact reached the Ypres–Comines Canal, but suffered heavy casualties in doing so and had to be drawn back” . (Major L.F. Ellis, The War in France and Flanders 1939-1940).

In August 1942 Macdonald was posthumously mentioned in despatches for his services in the retreat. He rests in grave 16 of the British plot in Comines (Komen) Communal Cemetery.



War: World War 2

  • Surname: MacDonald
  • Forenames or initials: Alexander John
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1913-1918
  • Rank: Major
  • Regiment: 59 Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • Date of Birth: 17th August 1900
  • Date of Death: 27th May 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner D2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Comines (Komen) Communal Cemetery: Grave 16